A few year's worth of opinions of swing dancing
By Benson Wong with help from friends.
Last revised October 24, 2000.
Eric Mittler of the Northern California Lindy Society had pointed out that
having your own webpage like DanceNet means that you can publish articles on
topics that don't have to get scrutinized by an editor or sanctioned by an
organization as being politically correct. I was the publisher of the BSDS
newsletter and I had a tough editor so it's easier to write nowadays; on the
other hand, now everyone can see how badly I write.
I've been on the Boston swing dance scene since 1991, having started taking
lessons because my girlfriend was into swing dancing. As a result of the
time spent on the dance floor with a variety of dance partners, I've
developed a few ideas that I think it would appropriate to share with others.
Yes, I know, it looks like I'm picking on the guys.
Traditionally, it's the guys who have the active burden of making the dance
go well, and, as someone with a Y-chromosome, I've been taught that "it's
always the guy's fault", so I'm focusing on where I can clear up some issues
between the leaders and the followers. At the same time, I also get to hear
what the followers think of the guys who lead them.
Considering the number of favorable responses that I get from women/followers
regarding the issues I bring up in this article, I think that the men/leaders
should pay attention to the suggestions that I offer below.
Showing Off Your Cool Moves
- Less is more.
Some women like to concentrate on dancing instead of trying
to figure out all the moves that you have in your repertoire. There are
some cool moves that you have to do, but they're supposed to be there
to make her or the two of you look good, or they're supposed to
make the dance more enjoyable or interesting. She isn't there
to make you look good in front of your adoring fans. Ease up on the
complex fancy stuff unless you know your partner knows them.
- Forget the acrobatics.
If you're not performing and you're not dancing with your partner
from your swing acrobatics class, don't endanger your partner by trying
to flip her over your back. My friend, the Dancing Dentist, told me
that a certain guy flipped her over and around his back during her early
dancing years. Definitely don't do that to a beginner! (unless your
liability insurance is all paid up). I don't care *what* they did in
the GAP commercial; it's pretty damn dangerous. Any guy doing
acrobatics and aerials on a social dance floor is immediately identified
as a jerk while his partner is considered an idiot for letting him do
it to her.
- Smooth is good.
Most of the women I've danced with seem to prefer a smooth
dancer. What? You mean they don't like getting their arms yanked out
of their sockets? Being called a "smooth dancer" should be the goal
of every leader on the dance floor. A smooth dancer doesn't not pull
or push their partners: they lead. If your lead is smooth, your
partner won't have to be a mindreader to figure out what you're trying
to do and it keeps her from having her back in pain all night long. If
the move feels jerky, then that's probably what your audience sees.
Here's a suggestion: when you're executing a lead, move *your*
hand, not hers. Her hand happens to be connected to yours so it'll
come along for the ride; you just won't be transmitting as much power
into her arm.
- Dancing with the music
"A move is not a move unless it's done to the music."
Unfortunately, many of today's dancers do not have the patience to
practice and learn to dance with the music. Such lack of enthusiasm
discourages teachers from holding dance technique classes where people
can concentrate on dancing instead of just learning new moves.
I wish Bob Thomas would hold his Dance Technique classes
again. There are so many new dancers who would benefit from them (I
took three of the classes myself!). I personally have a hard time remembering
all the moves I've learned over the years so I spend more time making
the ones I do remember feel better. Eric Mittler told me that he's
docked points as a judge at a dance contest because a couple came up
with some difficult aerial moves when the music was calm and smooth.
One thing you should be asking yourself: Are you dancing or are you
just performing dance moves?
- Support your own weight!
Okay, I'm sorry but I have to mention this. This is for the
There are some women out there who need to support themselves on the
dance floor. Some women (I don't dance much with guys) use their
partners to pull themselves into position. For instance, on the
Rock Step, after the first beat, the woman should be *OVER* her feet.
Her center of gravity should not have passed beyond the center because
then she will have to pull on her partner to get her moving on the
second beat. This interrupts the lead because the leader has to take
the time and effort to pull his partner back into position. Even
more importantly, it tires the leader out quickly.
Some of the "fashion statements are superficial; yes, I realize that. As a
guy, I rely on the solid advice of women friends to tell me what looks good
on me. On the other hand, I have some advice that have more practical reasons.
- What about collars?
It's too bad all the cool dance shirts are t-shirts. Wearing
shirts with collars when out dancing is probably being picky but it
does cover a sweaty area where your partner might put her hand.
Your call. Don't forget to tuck that shirt in. One thing to remember,
if you have to wear a t-shirt (and I respect anyone's Freedom of
Speech), you have to ask yourself if it's a good idea to wear a t-shirt
with a controversial message, such as a t-shirt from Hooters®.
That's probably not a good message for your dance partner.
This is only a suggestion, but I find that an undershirt will soak
up sweat and the sweat will take longer to reach the outer shirt. While
you might feel uncomfortable with a wet undershirt, at least your
partner won't have to feel it and you look drier.
For the women/follower, here's a big suggestion: don't wear
silk/satin camisoles, shirts or tops. The material is so slippery that
the leader can't keep his(her) hand on your back during a closed
position and it gets very difficult to lead. I also think that
material shows sweat better (or should I say, worse) than any other.
Guys shouldn't wear shirts with that material either; that went out of
style with Disco in the 70's.
- Multiple shirts
I (and many other people) bring 3-5 shirts to dances and change
them often. Followers appreciate that when they have to put their
hands on your shoulders. It's amusing to note that the interval spent
changing shirts in the restroom is the only time I get to talk to the
other guys. :^)
In formal square dancing (at a dance), the guys might wear something
on their belt that allows them to carry a small (matching) towel so they
can wipe sweat off their face or hands before (or during) dancing.
Swing dancers don't have to go to those extremes, but it helps to have
a towel on the side to dry off after a dance. Your next dance partner
will appreciate it! (I bring two).
From one DanceNet reader:
"I would love men (those who sweat profusely) to think of bringing along a
clean shirt and perhaps freshening up part way through the evening. Dancing
is so much more enjoyable with your hand on a dry shirt/shoulder. And guys -
please don't use your hand to wipe off the sweat from your brow and then
immediately take my arm or shoulder. Please use a handkerchief or napkin."
about women who wear tops with bare midriffs. Let me state that I
*like* women with bare midriffs, but note that any bare skin is a
place where sweat will accumulate. No matter who has to put their
hand on that sweaty skin (leader or follower), it's a pretty gross
feeling. This applies to guys who wear athletic tops, but that should
be covered by the other comments above. It should be noted that this
comment originally came from a woman leader; Yes, I know about
the belief that women don't sweat; they "glisten", but let's
face it: some women *do* sweat so take note. (Okay, Jennifer, I
picked on women this time. Happy? :-P )
For serious swing/lindy, I tend to wear contacts instead of my
glasses unless I'm tired and my eyes are already sore. My glasses
tend to fog up quickly and they slip down off my nose alot (orientals
tend to have flatter bridges on their noses). They can also get knocked
off which can be painful. It's convenient not to have to take the
glasses on and off for dancing or just to wipe the sweat off (and I do
want to be able to see my partner). Of some note is the "close embrace"
of the Argentine Tango; In the Argentine Tango, my partner's eyes are
dangerously close to the corner of my glasses if I'm not standing
perfectly straight. While this teaches me to fix my posture, I don't
like endangering my partner while we're dancing.
You're going to be pounding on your feet a lot while you dance
so wearing comfortable shoes is important, and if you are going to be
inflicting punishment on your feet, imagine what it does to your
shoes. I've destroyed a nice pair of street shoes while dancing
(the first pair I wore dancing before buying dance shoes). If you're
going to do *any* semi-regular dancing, invest in the shoes. If you
wear out the heels, you can also re-sole them for very cheap. For
women, make sure your shoes have either laces or a strap to secure
them to your feet!
You don't want to send them flying during a kick. To heel?...or
not to heel? Flats or short heels (1") are good for swing or
Lindy. Anything higher is probably more appropriate for Ballroom,
Latin, Tango, or any of those slower dances. I don't suggest anything
that has an open toe; you know someone will step on them. As for that
certain lindy lady in NC, the B&W Lindy shoes that everyone seems to be
wearing these days *can* look nice on women; you just have to be
selective about the clothes that you wear with them. I've seen the
shoes matched up with skirts and pants; just don't wear the fancy/nice
(evening) dresses with them.
I've yet to see anyone in
"Swing-vintage" attire look bad in the black & whites, man or woman.
Note, however, that those shoes *attract*
attention to your feet so you have to be comfortable with people
watching your feet while you dance.
Period- or "Swing-chic" clothes look really cool on the dance
floor. There's one thing I want to point out: back in those days (the
40's), it was always considered good ettiquette for a man to remove his
hat indoors. It was always *required* [for a man] to remove
his hat in the presence of a lady. If you're going to dress for the
period, think about including the manners. Oh wait. I have another
point to make. I was in San Francisco where the swing dancers really
get into dressing in character for the dancing. I saw this one guy
who was really decked out with the suit, the "brown & whites", and
The Hair. He really looked cool and drew alot of attention.
He also couldn't dance to the beat. Even the beginners who were
learning to dance that night were pointing it out. If you're nervous
about your dancing and you get nervous when people watch you, you
should know that wearing the "cooler" outfits will attract more
attention, even if you didn't want that.
This sort of belongs here. I'm sure you've read in many different
places about the benefits of showering before going out dancing...for
your dance partners. If you've been working out, exercising, or doing
anything strenuous before going out dancing, there's a chance that you
might be retaining serious B.O. The funny thing is that people can't
tell themselves if they smell bad; their dance partners, on the other
Don't take chances. If they're going to complain, let them
complain about your dancing instead; wash off the day's sweat before
going dancing. By the way, at least one guy
indicated that this was a problem (though rarely) among some women,
so it's not just the guys.
Huh? Are we getting picky here now? Well, one guy sent me mail
about a woman who dug her finger nails into his hand. I'm not quite
sure of the details, but let's say, right here and now, that it's
probably a problem for both men and women. Now, the question is:
did this person have nails that were too long or did the dancer have
a "death-grip" on her partner's hand? If the nails were
too long, they probably should be shorter because of the lengthy time
that the hand are in contact and the increasing possibility of injury
(those things are sharp!)
The Death-Grip is a typically a problem with beginners who forget to
relax their hands. It's extremely difficult to dance with someone if
they have a vise-grip on their partner's hand: doing an underarm turn
is pretty much impossible. One helpful hint is "NO THUMBS!!!!".
If your thumb is kept away from the hands, it's very hard to get a
"death-grip" on your partner's hand so it's easier to dance and the
nails don't dig into your partner's hand.
One woman told me that no one asked her to dance at a party where
she knew most of the people. At one of his workshops, Frankie Manning
said this (I might be paraphrasing here): "When a man asks a woman
to dance, the first thing she does is look him up and down, [thinks for
a microsecond], and then says 'yes, I would like to dance'".
No matter how fast this sequence takes place, it does happen.
Some people just make the decision to ignore the thoughts and just
accept the dance. For other people, it's a bit more complicated.
I think that there are four considerations that goes through the mind
when asking someone to dance:
While my personal preference is to dance with a friend or someone I know,
other people might have other priorities. That's just human nature.
You might not have control over the
first two items, but if you want to ask someone to dance
or to get asked to dance, then consider how you can affect the third
item to improve the odds in your favor (please get rid of the
- Is it a friend or someone I know?
- Can they dance well?
- Do they look nice?
- Are they available to dance?
- Wearing shorts
There are some people who exist only as an example of what not to
do; the guy who triggered this example was one of those. Let's face it,
guys. We don't have legs that can compare to the ladies. Shorts, with
black socks...pulled to the knees, are not cool. If you don't agree,
ask the ladies. Who do you think told me? Cut-off jeans with the black
socks are even worse. Are there exceptions? Of course. If you're in a
afternoon workshop in a hot gym with a ton of people or you're dancing
outside in an informal setting (such as Boston's Sunday Outdoor
Swing or Lindy In The Park in San Francisco), shorts are
fine. I would, however, suggest wearing white socks so people
won't assume you think it's formal wear.
- ..and the pants
Guys are stereotyped as being bad at doing the laundry and
shrinking perfectly good clothes. It doesn't mean we have to prove
those rumors true. If the pants don't come down to your ankles,
do yourself a favor and put on a different pair of pants. Don't
look like you're getting ready for a flood. A very nice young lady
made a comment about wrinkled pants, pants that hang on hips, and pants
that are too long; if someone else noticed, maybe you should too.
Meanwhile, I don't think it's fair that women can wear pants that are
"short" but still be fashionable. Fashion Hint! From a fashion
point of view, "braces" with the sewn-in buttons (not the clip-on
suspenders) are cool; you don't have to say you got a tailor to sew the
buttons. Don't wear belts with the braces. For men *and* women,
forget the "grunge" look. The baggy ripped cuffs look like your mother
never taught you how to dress yourself; more important, though, is that
you can trip yourself on the pants!
- Women's fashions
As a guy-type of person, I should be the last person to
comment about the apparel of women dancers. On the other hand, this
issue is probably about as important as the shorts with black socks
problem. I think that women (and men) should not wear bicycle shorts
when dancing. At all. It's even worse when bicycle shorts are worn
with short skirts or dresses. The problem isn't when they're worn
under longer dresses; it's a shock to the fashion senses when they're
worn with SHORT skirts (with the bike shorts going down to the
knees). They remind me of the full-body
swimsuits that women wore in the 30's or the undergarments
that women wore under their dresses and petticoats back in the
1800's...without the dress. With a short skirt, bicycle pants have
the same fashion impact when guys wear shorts over their sweat pants.
It seems that swing dancing is suppose to be fun and we should worry more
about how our dance partner treats us on the dance floor. I did get one
letter about this. Yes, that's much
more important and is covered above and below. However, how we dress for a
night on the town is still important because we want to leave a good
impression on our new dance partners so that they'll accept another
invitation to dance. Dressing neat shows confidence and self-esteem and that
you are considerate of your dance partners. Someone
who is confident about themselves is less likely to spend the time fretting
about whether or not they're doing the right move and spend more time
enjoying the dance. It's possible to dress to sweat and still look neat.
Imagine this: if you were someone looking to ask one of several strangers to dance and you
didn't know anything about them (including their ability to dance), what would
you use as the criteria as to whom you would ask?
Attitude (politeness counts!)
- "Women make 90% of the mistakes on the dance floor...and it's
always the guys' fault!"
This is one of the most important things that I've ever heard
while taking classes! If you're a leader, never blame your partner
for blown leads. Think of it this way: it's possible for a good
leader to manage to lead a bad follower (just dance around the
follower). It's nearly impossible to follow a bad leader. The
follower can not read minds (well, maybe...) and she can't tell what
to do if it happens to be a bad lead. Maybe it was a
pretty mushy lead; I've done that plenty of times myself. Maybe
your partner is not as advanced as you are. I tend to tone down the
leads until I know my partner is comfortable with them. Note that
this strategy does NOT stop you from dancing!.
Ultimately, this reduces the number of arguments on and off the dance
floor (Yes, dear...). The
whole point is to make the two of you look like you've been dancing
together for years. Get on with the rest of the dance.
- Becoming unglued...
Some people have very dry hands so their hands are very smooth.
When performing very energetic maneuvers, it becomes very easy to
lose contact with your partner. I just suggest finishing the
move as if you're still connected; your partner will catch on fairly
quickly and only someone looking at you directly will notice.
- Never, ever, ever teach on the dance floor!
I can't stress this enough.
Unless solicited, it's bad enough that it's impolite to teach
on the dance floor when you're supposed to be enjoying the dance.
Imagine your embarrassment if your partner had blown your lead
because of a mistake you made and you decided to stop to teach
her to read your lead AND she turned out to be a dance
teacher? There's a guy whom we nicknamed "Twinkle-Toes" (swing is
never danced high on the toes, guys!) who would always stop a
dance to show his partner the move he screwed up
because she couldn't figure out his lead.
- A lead is a suggestion, not a command
This is another comment I picked up years ago from my dance
teacher. I was told a story by a woman who was dancing with
guy and she missed a lead. He immediately stopped the dance and told
her, "That's not what I led!". He thought she was deliberately
dissing him or trying to make him look bad. Let's face it, guys:
she's dancing with you because she wants to, not because she has to.
She's entitled to do something different as long as it doesn't
interfere with the lead. And everyone makes a mistake once
in a while. Again, whose fault is it *really*? (see above).
Spend your time dancing instead of wasting time
worrying about a blown lead.
- I meant to do that!
There are times when people make mistakes on the dance floor.
That's okay! What should you do? Smile and pretend that it's what
you had wanted to do in the first place and then continue dancing.
(One of these days I'll learn to do this in the Argentine Tango.)
Most of the time, people on the sidelines are looking at so many
different couples dancing that the time they spend looking at you is
only a split-second. Will they notice your mistake? Maybe. Will
they care? I doubt it. As for your partner, don't bother with
saying sorry; just keep smiling and dancing and make *them* wonder
if they made a mistake!
- Do it until she learns it...
This was emphasized by one of my contributors: "If you've just
led a move and the follower says she doesn't like it, or winces,
grimaces, groans, or some such, DON'T lead it again. Don't
assume she only needs "practice" to get it. As in so many other
cases, no means no!" Unless the follower says, "Do it again!", I
usually figure that she doesn't know the move and I will try something
else. If the leader persists, I usually tell the followers to grab
their arms, fall down, and
scream "OWWWW!", but no one's taken that advice yet. :^)
- Dance space
Pay attention to the people around you and how much space you
have. It's incredibly rude to run into other people because you
were careless and it doesn't improve your partner's disposition if you
throw/spin her into someone else. It's okay to abort your move if
you see danger in the adjacent space. Someone asked about "Dance
Space" with regard to how close you hold your partner. I'm going to
- People like to be asked...
This applies to both men and women, regardless of skill level.
Usually women outnumber men at dances and they get tired of chasing
down dance partners all the time. Some people are less assertive
than others or less confident of their abilities. Some guys,
especially in my case, might not have continued beyond the first
dance party if we hadn't been asked to dance by a sympathetic
follower; some of us are quite shy. I'm still shy about asking
strangers to dance, even after 8 years of dancing
(and one of these days I'll get the nerve to ask
Ms. Ramsey or Ms. Hobby to dance...).
NOTE: "Asking" someone to dance means walking up to that
person (around two feet apart is about right) and actually ask that
person for a dance. DO NOT stand out on the dance floor and
signal for someone to meet you out there. That is extremely rude and
tells your potential dance partner that they're not important enough
for you to walk over to invite out to the dance floor.
- Politeness counts!
Everyone likes to be appreciated so don't forget to smile and
thank your dance partner for a nice dance (what you actually *think*
is your own business). People remember kindness (or rudeness) forever
and it may
be important if you ever ask that person for a future dance. That
clumsy beginner might become the next touring professional.
- Never criticize
It seems strange to write this one down since it should be common
sense but some people forget that dancing is supposed to be fun. Some
people have forgotten how it was to be a beginner; beginners need
encouragement so they'll come back and continue dancing. Some guys
are extremely sensitive about moving their bodies to music in front
of other people and can be scared off by criticism. It was hard
enough to get them out on the dance floor! That follower who was just
criticized will remember you if you ever ask her for a dance in the future.
Be aware of the unspoken criticism. If you ask someone (particularly
a beginner) how long they've been dancing, do *NOT* respond with a
saddened "oh" because that implies that you're disappointed either
with their progress, their level, or how long they've been dancing.
Always answer with a positive (encouraging) tone and message in your
Some of you tend to forget that dancing is supposed to be fun!
I was asking Susie in San Francisco who were her favorite partners.
She mentioned the obvious guys whose dancing I noticed, but she made
it a point to mention this one particular guy "because he smiles".
If you're smiling because you're having fun, your partner will be
encouraged to dance with confidence because they know they're dancing
well enough to make you have a good time.
- A different kind of politeness..
Consideration for your partner is very important. Consideration
for the people around you is almost just as important. I saw this
guy (we now call him Mr. "I-own-the-dancefloor") walk
through the middle of a packed dance floor, totally
ignorant of all the people he was interrupting. What was so important
that he couldn't walk around the edge of the dance floor and not
interrupt the dancing couples?
Also, it is the leader's responsibility to think about where
to place the partner. Do NOT throw her into nearby dancers or
spectators. If she hits someone, it's the leader's
fault. The follower should not step on the feet of a spectator
standing on the sidelines because the leader should not put her there.
And finally: Never end up in the middle of a dancing
couple. If I can't see my partner anymore because you're dancing
in between us AND I'm still holding her hand in open facing
position, that means you're in the wrong place. Figure out your turf
and stay there. Do not interrupt other people's dancing and stay out
of their way.
- You oughta know better...
If you're a dance teacher, particularly a new one, you should
understand that the dance community is *VERY* small. You might not
know or remember everyone, but they know *YOU* and they talk to each
other. Everything you say and do will get passed
around, especially the bad stuff. As the tales get spread around,
they get magnified. In every class, the teacher should be
polite and professional: do not insult the student (in class or in
private) and do not tell the
student that you can't do anything for him or her. If they're holding
up the class, offer to work with them after the class. Perhaps a
change in teaching approach or the lack of an audience might help.
Remember, it takes at
least 20 "attaboys!" to equal 1 "you jerk!" so it'll take a while
to recover from one bad impression (and you can bet
there's a reason why I wrote this.)
- Who did I just dance with?
Looking at your partner during a dance is nice. It's easier for
dancers to follow body leads and the leaders can plan their next
moves more precisely when they can see what their partner is doing.
Don't be looking for your dance partner for the next song.
- ...been drinking...?
I'll be the first to say that you should support the establishments
that bring in live music for swing dancing by buying drinks at the bar.
On the other hand, many women have mentioned to me that they don't like
to smell alcohol breath. The bar tab makes it worthwhile for the club
to offer live music so consider buying a drink and tipping the
bartender. Note that a "drink" doesn't have to have a lot of or *any*
alcohol. I think it's not polite to bring your own refreshments into
a dance place where the main line of business is the bar, but
that's the subject of
- ...want a mint?
And on that note, one of life's little rules to live by is: "If
someone offers you a mint, Take It!." There are many reasons to
Don't assume anything; just accept the mint and thank your partner for
- The other person might just be polite (offer one if you're going
to take one yourself).
- The other person might be looking for a reason to talk to you.
- You needed a mint.
- Nice guys do not finish last...
Let's face it: life is too short to dance with people who hurt you.
I guess this is advice for the women. If the guy hurts you and
continues to do so (like jerking your arm out of the socket), don't
dance with him again. Tell him I said it was okay. Even better, point him out to all your friends
so they'll be forewarned. Dancing is suppose to be fun and should
never hurt. Seek out the guys who pay attention to how much the
follower is enjoying the dance.
I will admit that some of my dance partners tell me that I am a very
smooth dancer. While I enjoy the compliments, I also have to ask,
"What are the other guys/leaders doing?!?!" Every leader should take
a long look inside and ask if there is any possibility that they
might be hurting their partner. If a woman's arm is yanked constantly
throughout an evening of dance, her back is going to hurt long after
the dance is over.
- My favorite dance partners
While I try to dance to the level of my partner if I can, there are
some dancers who try to dance to *my* level or to my style of dancing.
These are the partners who are paying as much attention to my dancing
as I do to theirs. The result is two people dancing together who watch
out for each other. If one makes a mistake, the other dancer covers the
mistake or continues dancing while the partner recovers. It feels good
when you know your partner is there for you.
- I can't learn anymore from the local teachers...
I forget where the original quote came from but the point is still
important. Remember what a great dancer Fred Astaire was?
Truly awesome. Until, of course, you remember that Ginger Rogers
followed every one of his moves step for step (!) but she did it
backwards and in heels. There's always someone else
better and if that's the case, then there's something you haven't
learned yet. Never assume you have nothing else to learn; whenever you
do, that means you've only hit a wall that you need overcome to get to
the next level. It takes a lot of energy to get over each hurdle but
you get to enjoy the dance at a higher level. As for the teachers,
these professionals have spent years (and a lot of money) to train
and learn the material they teach. They're constantly improving their
craft to allow them to advance the dance in their classes. There's
always something you can learn from them.
- *YOU* were once a beginner...
I remember a woman who decided that she didn't want to dance with
(most) of the beginners. When I found out that she had only been
dancing for 6 months, I told her that she hadn't been dancing long
enough (to earn the right) to be a snob. We were all once beginners
and some of us even remember how intimidating it was to get out on the
dance floor the first time, much less *ask someone* for a dance.
Most beginners are intimidated by people who seem to know what they're
doing. When you ask a beginner for a dance, it's not a lifelong
commitment; can't you spare the 3 minutes of a song to make someone's day?
- One last comment...I promise!
While these suggestions (and they are only suggestions) are geared
towards the social amateur dancer, don't assume I'm excluding dance
teachers or professionals out of this, much less the regular dance
attendee. If you're reading this article and thinking, "Gee, I don't do
that!", take a look again.
The Big Picture...
How important is it to be the best dancer? On the professional circuit, very
important. On the social scene? Not at all! The goal is "be the one with
whom everyone else wants to dance". Your task, as a dancer, is to make
the dancing enjoyable for your partner. If your partner has a great time
dancing with you, that energy will carry over to your own dancing and you'll
both have a good time. Let me tell you a secret: the dance experience that
stands out most in my mind was with someone who had never taken a swing
Eric Mittler adds that all it takes is one person to:
Then all the other dancers are in trouble. Once followers find a leader with
a smooth supportive lead, the other leaders who toss their partners around
and are non-solicited teachers will find themselves sitting out and more
importantly left out of non-dance activities. Ya know, Eric, I think we
should have kept this last one our little secret. :-P
- never teach
- make their partner feel like every step they do is in sync with
- concentrate on making their partner look better
Many thanks to the following who contributed to this:
- Ron Gursky and Nancy Murphy, Rugcutters Dance Studio, Watertown, MA
- Eric Mittler, Northern California Lindy Society
- Jane Dumont, Hartford Swing Jam
- Roger Weiss, Boston Swing Dance Network
- Martha M. Dimes, a fun dancer from North Carolina
- and in an indirect way, Mr. "I-own-the-dance-floor" and
Twinkle-Toes, both of whom inspired many of the topics that
were discussed here.
What have I started? Eric announced this article in his weekly mailing of
Jump Site and the replies have been
rolling in from around the country. Naomi from Santa Cruz, CA, threw in her
two cents about guys who don't use deodorant or brush their teeth. Rita in
Lowell, MA thinks this article should be required reading for all new dancers.
Tony asked about reprinting the article for his students. Some people are
even calling me with their responses about this article.
From my point of view, the following questions need to be asked of yourself
at the end of a dance:
If you answered yes to all of the above, you've "done good".
- Is my dance partner smiling?
- Did she (or he) have a good time?
- Did the two of you look like you were dancing *together*?
This article does not attempt to solve the situations that pop up in social
arenas that can cause emotional distress when dealing with other people on
the dance floor. For solutions to those problems, you will have to consult
Graces (who, for your information, is certainly *not* me). She is much
more eloquent and polite (and prettier) than me.
Agree? Disagree? That's okay. Write
to me and let me know what you think. If you want to see what other people
said, check out their
feedback, comments, and criticisms.
Copyright © Benson
1997-2004. All rights reserved
by the author. This article are intended for the reading pleasure
of the DanceNet On The Web readers. Duplication or use in any other
medium, including but not limited to print publication, another web site, or
downloading to a
storage medium on CD, floppy disk, hard drive, zip drive, or tape, without
the written permission of the author is prohibited.
DanceNet Main Page |
DanceNet Features and Articles Page |